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Thursday, 17 October 2013



It was a dreary Sunday morning in 2007, with on and off again rainfall against a grey sky, typical of late winter in East Tennessee. I was getting ready to go to the hospital to see several patients when, some minutes after 10 AM, the door bell rang. "Dad, there's a policeman at the door," shouted my 10 year daughter. All three of my kids gathered around in the excitement. I answered the door, and the officer stood there with a concerned expression and asked, "Everything OK?" Bewildered, I replied, "Sure, but what's going on?" He explained that "there's been a 911 call from this address." I turned to the kids with an accusing look, and they all denied any such "pranks." My wife had arrived at the doorway from upstairs, and indicated that no one had even used the phone that morning as far as she knew. Everyone had "slept in." We all chalked the event up to an accident, as the officer said that sometimes there are errors at the phone company and "wires get crossed." I thanked him for his time, and the officer went on his way. We thought nothing more about it for a while. 

One week latter, at 10:20 AM on Sunday morning, I had been to my office and was returning home. A police officer turned into our subdivision behind me. "Did I not make a signal," I thought. I pulled into my driveway and the officer pulled in behind me. "Oh no, what's wrong, I hope no one's hurt or anything," I thought to myself. 

Quickly getting out of my car, I walked over to the officer's vehicle. "Hello officer, what seems to be the problem?" He replied, "there's been a 911 call from this address, it was made about 20 minutes ago," as he exited his squad car. "Let's go inside," I said as we walked to the front door. Inside my home, my wife and kids were as shocked as I when told of yet another 911 call that none of us made. I asked the officer if he knew the number from which the call was made. He looked at a pocket pad, leafed through the pages, and said, "Yes, it's 865-692-4524." I told him that was not our number or even near it, and we both stood there literally scratching our heads. I then relayed the fact that the exact same thing had happened exactly one week before at nearly the same time. The officer called up the database in his computer pad and said, "sure enough, a 911 call was reported last Sunday at 10:01 AM from this address and from that same phone number. Today's call was also made at 10:01 AM. Very strange. But it's clearly not your phone number." Along with my wife and three kids and the police officer, we all stood in my hallway with our mouths open aghast at the coincidence. Breaking the stunned silence, the officer suggested that we contact the telephone company to see if there is a problem in their computer system crossing our number with another. We thanked him for his time, and he left, scratching his head. 

The following day, Monday, my wife contacted the phone company to make a query about the phone number from which the 911 calls were made. After the typical waiting period, an attendant returned to the line, indicating that there was no such phone number as the one in question. When further questioned by my wife, the attendant admitted that there was no such "active" phone number. When my wife insisted that all "other" phone numbers be checked, another waiting period insued. When, after about 10 minutes, the phone company attendant finally returned to the line, she said, "yes there is an old number that matches your request, but it is more than five years old. The record shows it was the number for a temporary line you had placed in your basement in 2002, five years ago. But that number is no longer connected to our system, and hasn't been since 2002." After learning that the number was technically "in" the computer but not electrically accessible for calling, my wife thanked the attendant and hung up the phone. She was in psychological shock. 

I arrived home that afternoon and my wife met me at the door. "It was your mother whose been calling 911." "What?" I looked at my wife like she was crazy. "That's not possible, you know she died three months ago." The phone number that had "called" 911 and brought the police to our home twice, two Sundays in a row, was from a temporary phone we had placed in a room in our basement where we moved my mother in 2002, prior to placing her in assisted living. She lived there for only three or four months but her phone number was, in fact, 865-692-4524. That number had been disconnected when my mother left and went to a new facility, and the phone was removed. 

My wife and I stood in our foyer with blank stares and goosebumps. It appears that somehow, someway, my deceased mother, who, especially in her latter years (she died at age 93), was rather prone to panic first and then think, had apparently attempted to call 911, twice! The calls were made at the exact same time on two Sundays in a row. Colleagues nervously attempted to supply explanations, some rational, some not. 

In some kind of time distortion, perhaps she realized she was dead and panicked, calling 911 as she sometimes did in life. Or, perhaps, she was simply attempting to communicate with family in the most readily available manner. Or, maybe she was trying to warn me about what we much latter found out to be an office staffer who embezzled thousands of dollars from our practice starting in early 2007. 

Regardless of motive, three months after her death, two 911 calls were made from my deceased mother's old phone line and number. The number was no longer in service, and the line no longer existed physically, and, according to the phone company, the number was not even "online" in their system. Something "physically" impossible had actually occurred, witnessed by two police officers, a doctor and his family. 

In communicating with the living, maybe the dead do not need to be "online" in the manner we think about being "online." Perhaps the laws of physics, as we know them, only apply to the living.

Submitted by Edward Workman, MD

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